By Ian McConnell

SCOTTISH commercial law firm Burness Paull raised income and profits in its financial year to July 31, even though this period included nearly five months of working in lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Lawson, who chairs Burness Paull, said there was “no doubt” this had been a “hugely challenging period”. The firm said its “early adoption of advanced client service technology” such as document-automation software had helped it “offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”. It flagged its “bedding-in” of “agile working systems” in recent years.

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Burness Paull posted a three per cent rise in income to £60.5 million for the year to July, and a 14% increase in pre-tax profits, before partner distribution, to £25m. It noted its headcount had risen during the period to 547, from 543.

Asked whether further rises in profit and income were anticipated for the current financial year, Mr Lawson replied: “It’s clear that many business sectors have and will continue to face extraordinary challenges. Some business models have been completely turned upside down, and may never be the same again. However, other industries have seen a benefit as consumer and corporate habits have changed and new ways of living and working have been rapidly adopted. How quickly the wider economy recovers will be largely dependent on how long lockdown [measures] last, or indeed if they have to [be] implemented again in various countries.”

He added: “From a legal sector point of view there’s no doubt it will have an impact, and to continue to be successful firms will have to adapt very quickly to serve new client needs and integrate new technology to ensure they are able to provide their services profitably. From our own...point of view...we believe there will be opportunities to do things differently that can benefit everyone.”

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Mr Lawson noted the firm had “continued to handle complex international transactions for clients virtually to get deals completed”.

He added that the firm had “more than 3,200 delegates join training webinars to help upskill our clients”.

Mr Lawson declared: “There is no doubt this has been a hugely challenging period. I have been a corporate deal-maker for 25 years, and being part of the firm’s senior team successfully supporting clients and employees while continuing to drive business growth over the last five months has been the biggest deal of my career.”

He added: “The high-profile, premium transactions we’ve delivered during lockdown are testimony to our resilience. Investment in automation has really paid off and made us much more efficient during deals. The correct software selections are a big part of that, but it’s also about optimising teams and systems to improve consistency and efficiency throughout. Clients want problems solved and we are freeing up lawyers at all levels to work on doing the really important stuff, rather than getting bogged down in admin.”

Burness Paull said: “The benefits of bedding-in agile working systems and advanced document automation software in previous years significantly diminished the disruption presented by lockdown.”